The Council of the District of Columbia enacted the Leave to Vote Amendment Act (the “Act”) requiring employers to provide at least two hours of paid leave for employees to vote. The Act was signed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and is likely to become effective prior to the upcoming 2020 election season. The Act will not take effect, however, until it is funded by the Council in the Washington, D.C. (“D.C.”) budget, which is anticipated to occur in October.
Which Employers Does the Act Apply to?
The Act covers all employers located in D.C. with at least one employee eligible to vote. The Act broadly defines employer as “any person who, for compensation employs an individual” and broadly defines an employee to include “any individual employed by an employer who is eligible to vote.”
Which Employees Are Entitled to Paid Voting Leave?
Any individual employed by a D.C. employer who is eligible to vote. It is unclear whether and how the Act covers remote workers (i.e., those physically working in D.C. but reporting to another worksite location and those physically elsewhere but reporting to a D.C. worksite). In addition, the Act does not specify the process by which an employer confirms an employee’s voting eligibility. Further guidance on these issues is anticipated as the D.C. Board of Elections will be issuing additional regulations.
What Does the Act Provide?
The Act provides D.C. employees eligible to vote with at least two hours of paid leave to vote in person in any public election in D.C. upon request, regardless of an employee’s state of residence. In addition, the Act provides that employees who are not eligible to vote in D.C. elections are eligible for the same benefit in any election run by the jurisdiction in which the employee is eligible to vote. This means, for example, a D.C. employee that resides in Maryland would be eligible for the paid voting leave benefit.
How Does an Employee Request Leave?
An employer may require that employees request leave a reasonable time in advance. However, the Act does not specify the amount of notice that is required or the form in which the notice must be provided.
Can an Employer Specify the Hours of Leave?
Yes. An employer is permitted to specify the hours during which the employee may take leave, including by requiring that the employee take the leave:
- During a period designated for early voting instead of on the election day; or
- At the beginning or end of their working hours
What are the Employer Notice and Posting Requirements?
Employers must post and maintain in a conspicuous location a notice developed by the D.C. Board of Elections describing employee rights under the Act.
Are there Other Prohibitions Under the Act?
Yes. The Act also makes it unlawful to interfere with, restrain, or deny any attempt to take leave pursuant to the Act and prohibits retaliation against an employee who takes leave under the Act.
D.C. employers should revisit and modify their leave policies to include paid voting leave and incorporate a process for administering voting leave requests from employees. Employers must also ensure that the notice poster (to be developed and made available by the D.C. Board of Elections at a later date) is posted in a conspicuous place.
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